I saw paintings there I wish I hadn’t
Picasso dripping in his yellow sadness
heaving against the awning of a French silhouette
and there were Monets and van Goghs
slinking through Renaissance hallways
avoiding admission fees and knocking over oil paints.
I was busy shaking hands
with some 18th century architecture, continents
short of the last home I loved, and thinking
sculpting a way out of this depression
was a dying art.
Soon I will forget textbook Alps
until I jump from the top of them
I will trip over my own two feet
trying to learn Flamenco,
drinking sangria in southern Spain
as the sun settles on my shoulders
I will ride a camel in Morocco, feel
exposed in my own skin when the men’s eyes
chisel through my dress. I will cry
on my 23rd birthday, sitting alone
on the Mediterranean shore.
Meet men who lie to me in discotecas
and on long distance flights.
I will see my mother only through a screen, I will
create a home five thousand miles
away from my own.
I will believe things are better
in Barcelona with best friends
until I wake up in empty hotel rooms
with the bill. I will become intoxicated
and invincible in Ibiza, parasailing
into raving sunsets, only to swallow
regret with a rising headache.
In Paris I will wish I locked my own love,
eat dinner atop the Eiffel Tower
as French fashion seeps into my suitcase.
I will befriend strangers in Belgium,
under bright lights and the mist after rainfall.
I will love how it feels to binge
on chocolate and beer I can't pronounce.
In Switzerland I will stand on Schilthorn
and know there is a God. I will linger
in blues and greens until my pupils
are delirious in happiness, my wet
eyelashes sick at the thought of departure.
In Prague, I will reign as I map the bridges
by hand and bury a castle of beautiful fists.
In Venice I will crave gelato
like I did your affection,
and cling to a brother I have not seen in years
Only to fight with him through Old Town,
with Mozart composing at our backs.
I will photograph Budapest
from the Opera House steps
and not really understand how to belong.
In Germany I will expand my belly
with ruffled skirts and anchor my stomach
with bratwurst. I will have to use both hands
to hold a stein to my lips, and pass out
from foreign words.
And in six months when I return
to America, I won't know who I am or where
I belong because I am inked like stamps
on a passport, tainted with the taste of tapas,
charging like a train that never stops.
French Creek Water Trail
Sometimes they surge through telephone wires
from the kitchen faucet my father couldn’t fix.
Memories are always moving--
streaming hot fudge down Dairy Isle sundaes after soccer practice,
sweat and sweet meeting for the first time.
Or the pouring, moments after my mom says, “It’s gonna rain--
look at the cows laying down,”
cruising by a farm past highway 98
in a Chevy that still runs
like the effortless flow of gossip in a one stoplight town,
into my nostrils:
trace of wood chips,
gasoline, the flood
of burnt blackberry pancakes for breakfast.
Sometimes they spill over, tears down cheeks
after a punch from my older brother.
But the swiftest circuit in Saegertown is French Creek,
the blue vein that never runs off course.
The one that separates the school from the Dairy Isle,
the one that George Washington was once on in 1753.
My father told me never to swim there--
his classmate drowned
the Friday after high school graduation
in an inner tube, among friends,
swallowed by a strong undercurrent.
The boy’s mother still left the porch light on,
every night for thirty years
until she got swept away, too.
That’s why the river is muddied, not blue or forgiving.
It is clouded with the bodies of a twelve-year-old girl
whose canoe buckled in June
and a six-year-old boy, ever curious
that toppled into a whirlpool.
995. 994. 993.
All were carried away
as my mother will be, and my father,
my brother (though he’ll put up one hell of a fight)
and someday, me, even with
grass safe beneath my feet.